Monday, November 3, 2014

Prosecutors Drop Murder Charge Against Micah Moore

In late 2012, Bethany Deaton was found dead inside a vehicle in Jackson County, Missouri. Bethany's husband, Tyler Deaton, was the head of a communal religious community that drew controversy and criticism after her death. Micah Moore, a member of the religious community and a roommate of the Deatons, confessed to Bethany's murder. (More here.)

Bethany, Tyler, and Micah all had ties to the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri. IHOP distanced itself from Tyler Deaton's religious community, insisting in a press release that Deaton's group operated independently and expressing alarm at its "secrecy and disturbing religious practices".

Now, a new twist in the case suggests that Micah Moore may not have murdered Bethany. According to the Kansas City Star, Jackson County prosecutors dropped the murder charge against Micah Moore. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker explained that Moore's DNA was not found on the bag on Deaton's body. Furthermore, a handwriting analysis concluded that Deaton had written her suicide note.

Moore's attorneys submitted a motion to exclude Moore's statement, which offers details about Tyler Deaton's religious group, the Deatons' unhappy marriage, and Bethany's struggles with depression. According to the motion, Moore's claim that members of the group sexually assaulted Bethany was not corroborated by evidence, and that no independent evidence indicates that Bethany died as a result of homicide. The motion argues that "without independent evidence that Bethany's death was caused by another person (a homicide), Moore's statements are inadmissible."

Why would Micah Moore confess to killing Bethany Deaton? According to the motion, IHOP hosted a prayer session for members of Tyler's religious community after Bethany Deaton's death. At the Shiloh retreat center, IHOP representatives allegedly told those in attendance that they were afflicted by supernatural forces and needed an exorcism. The chaotic atmosphere of the exorcism preceded Micah Moore's false statements, the motion argues.

"Still overwhelmed with grief, the community also had to cope with the extraction of their leader from their midst at IHOP's insistence. IHOP leadership told Tyler he was no longer able to stay and had sessions for the community at Shiloh, a remote retreat center utilized by IHOP and its affiliates. During an evening session on November 8, 2012, it was made clear to the community that IHOP believed the community was not just a community but a cult and called into question everything they had been doing under Tyler's command. Leaders of the session made it clear that everyone had been hurt and controlled supernaturally and needed an exorcism, though the term exorcism wasn't expressly used. A large group of people, called the Prisoners of Hope - an IHOP affiliated prayer group - prayed for the group. Putting their hands on the cult members, shouting at demons to leave and scream-praying in tongues, soon had many in the group crying and yelling and falling to the floor. In that atmosphere - loud, frenetic, chaotic - all the pent up emotion from their friend's death and from being accused of being a cult - spilled out. In the hours that followed, the men and women would be separated and it would come to light that Tyler had physically intimate relationships with several of the men. Homosexuality is strongly condemned within the church though Tyler had masterfully managed to convince these men that the relationship was one of intimacy, not sexuality. Ultimately it led to an unraveling of others within the group that were equally vulnerable and fragile. And, it led to the completely false statements by Moore relating to Bethany's death. Notwithstanding that Moore told police unequivocally while in custody, after he finally had some sleep, that he did not kill Bethany, murder charges were filed and a full investigation launched into Deaton's death."

IHOP paints a different picture of the events of November 8th. According to the Kansas City Star, IHOP spokesman Nick Syrett denies that an exorcism occurred, saying that the meeting was intended to help members of Deaton's community grieve over Bethany's death.

I find these recent twists baffling. If, as the motion argues, evidence suggests that Micah Moore did not murder Bethany Deaton, what prompted his confession? Was Micah Moore manipulated by religious histrionics, or did other factors trigger his confession? What other details about the case will emerge?


  1. Wow! That reads almost like a soap opera filled with characters who are insane.

    Regarding false confessions, it's hard for most people to understand but it happens all the time. The reasons can be complex and varied but I think in most cases it comes down to a very disempowered individual who is in an abusive or otherwise frightening situation and s/he sees the confession as the only way out. It seems counterintuitive but there you have it, and the evidence bears this out. Also, police often use very manipulative tactics in their interrogations that can and do result in false confessions.

    1. Agi Tater -- This whole case has been strange and disturbing from the very beginning. I hope investigators continue to separate the truth from the fabrications.

      I can see how fear and mistreatment could drive a fragile person to make a false confession. I wonder if we'll learn more about why Moore confessed, and what was going through his head when he later recanted.

  2. I am glad that justice is getting served and an innocent person is not going to jail. This article does highlight the craziness that is religion though, like you said what weird superstitions make a person admit to something they never did. Thanks for bringing this to my attention and I hope more people get to read it.

    1. Christian -- I'm glad more truth surrounding this whole crazy, tragic situation is coming to light.


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